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Int J Cancer. 2012 Jun 1;130(11):2495-504. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26309. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Role of BRCA1 in controlling mitotic arrest in ovarian cystadenoma cells.

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Department of Pathology, USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Cancers that develop in BRCA1 mutation carriers are usually near tetraploid/polyploid. This led us to hypothesize that BRCA1 controls the mitotic checkpoint complex, as loss of such control could lead to mitotic errors resulting in tetraploidy/polyploidy and subsequent aneuploidy. We used an in vitro system mimicking premalignant conditions, consisting of cell strains derived from the benign counterparts of serous ovarian carcinomas (cystadenomas) and expressing SV40 large T antigen, conferring the equivalent of a p53 mutation. We previously showed that such cells undergo one or several doublings of their DNA content, as they age in culture and approach the phenomenon of in vitro crisis. Here, we show that such increase in DNA content reflects a cell cycle arrest possibly at the anaphase promoting complex, as evidenced by decreased BrdU incorporation and increased expression of the mitotic checkpoint complex. Down-regulation of BRCA1 in cells undergoing crisis leads to activation of the anaphase promoting complex and resumption of growth kinetics similar to those seen in cells before they reach crisis. Cells recovering from crisis after BRCA1 down-regulation become multinucleated, suggesting that reduced BRCA1 expression may lead to initiation of a new cell cycle without completion of cytokinesis. This is the first demonstration that BRCA1 controls a physiological arrest at the M phase apart from its established role in DNA damage response, a role that could represent an important mechanism for acquisition of aneuploidy during tumor development. This may be particularly relevant to cancers that have a near tetraploid/polyploid number of chromosomes.

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